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To protect birds, some cliffs are off limits to hikers

MONTPELIER — Hiking Vermont’s hillsides is a great way to enjoy a spring day, but the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Audubon Vermont recommend people check to see if the area they’re planning to hike or climb is open. Several cliff areas are currently closed to protect nesting peregrine falcons.
“Peregrine falcons are very sensitive to human presence, so we ask climbers and hikers to please maintain a respectful distance from all nests,” said Col. Jason Batchelder, Vermont’s lead state game warden. “The areas closed include the portions of the cliffs where the birds are nesting and the trails leading to the cliff tops or overlooks. These closures help people to choose an alternative route in advance.”
These sites will remain closed until Aug. 1 or until the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department determines the risk to nesting falcons has passed. If nesting falcons choose new sites, additional sites may be added to the closed list at vtfishandwildlife.com.
The department closed 14 hiking areas, but only four are in the Addison County area. They are:
•Deer Leap (Bristol) – cliff-top and climbing closed.
•Mount Horrid (Rochester) – Great Cliff overlook closed.
•Rattlesnake Point (Salisbury) – southern overlook closed.
•Snake Mountain (Addison) – overlook south of pond closed.
Audubon Vermont conservation biologist Margaret Fowle works with volunteers and other conservation professionals to monitor the sites throughout the nesting season.
“Peregrine falcons were removed from Vermont’s endangered species list in 2005 and the population continues to thrive thanks to the efforts of our many volunteers and partners,” Fowle said. “In many cases the lower portions of the trails remain open and we encourage people to enjoy watching peregrine falcons from a distance with binoculars or a scope.”
What you can do to help Vermont peregrines:
•Respect cliff closures, and retreat from any cliff where you see peregrines.
•Report any disturbance of nesting peregrines to your local State Game Warden.
•Report any sightings to Margaret Fowle at mfowle@audubon.org.

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